Rutland County residents aim to serve changing community through recreation
By Erin Mansfield
Correspondent | January 25,2014
The Rutland Recreation and Parks Department’s top three goals should be implementing an outreach program for at-risk youngsters, expanding use of Pine Hill Park and addressing facility shortages in the city.
That was the consensus of 30 people from the Rutland region who attended a public forum about the department Wednesday at Rutland Free Library.
The hour-and-a-half meeting brought together professionals, parents, aldermen and community leaders seeking to develop ways to reach Rutland City’s changing population.
Attendees offered feedback on the department’s services and made suggestions ranging from placing mile markers on running trails to providing transportation to recreation events for underprivileged children.
“Who traditionally plays basketball or lacrosse is someone who can get their kid to a game,” said Cindi Wight, superintendent of parks and recreation for Rutland, adding that she set up the forum “to find out if we’re meeting what the community needs.”
Wight cited a 20 percent loss in overall student population, growing dependence on free and reduced-cost lunch programs, and a substantially larger 50-and-older population than when she started working for Rutland City in 2001.
With consultant Joan Gamble moderating the forum, the group voted on the top three priorities and began mapping out plans to implement the youth program, park expansion and facilities shortage.
Community members spent most of their time brainstorming a program for youngsters.
“There are typically hazards in a young person’s life,” said Shana Duval, 28, of Pittsford. “Maybe it’s crime, poverty, alcohol — maybe it’s mental health issues. As a community we need to try to connect them with opportunities to put them in a more positive place.”
Duval advocated for collaboration between the recreation department and other established organizations in the region, such as the Boys & Girls Club.
“I would like to make sure that the programs we offer are available to everyone regardless of income and status here in the city,” said David Allaire, president of the Board of Aldermen.
Programs offered by the Rutland City Recreation and Parks Department vary from team sports, such as basketball and volleyball, to maintaining hiking trails and field space.
“I’ve spent so much time (at Pine Hill Park) that I’m looking for a few more trails,” said Ben Reller, 27, of Bomoseen. “I think it’s a major destination spot that can still be improved upon.”
Reller is a runner, biker and hiker and called the recreation department a “crucial resource for being new to the area.”
“My son has learned to mountain bike at Pine Hill Park,” said Amy Roy, 46, of Orwell.
Roy attended the meeting on behalf of her 11-year-old son, whom she drives to Rutland every day for three weeks during the summer because she supports the summer camps. She advocated for paintball, laser tag and free skate camps.
“I like the fact that what they came up with didn’t require a lot of financial investment,” said Jon Kiernan, a Rutland City alderman. He and Rep. Douglas Gage, R-Rutland City, agreed that the ideas put forth required more human capital — such as volunteers — than financial resources.
The meeting concluded with agreement from Wight that the recreation department would compile numbers to address the cost of the forum’s three most popular proposed ideas.
“There was great information that night from that group of people,” Wight said. Wight says she plans to make additional efforts to connect with parents and children and find out what they would like to see from the recreation department.